There is always a straw that breaks the camel’s back.
You would think it would be the fact that we have been in Caracas for three months now and still do not have a car. (As a matter of fact, our car hasn’t even left Miami yet. That *might* happen this week. Fingers crossed. Long story, but right now the goal is to have our own wheels by Valentine’s Day.) Or you might think it would be the fact that we spend more time sorting out banking issues than we ever have in our lives. (How many bolivars can I get for $1? The answer to that changes twice a day. I feel like I need a degree in economics just to go to the market in Venezuela. And then factor in the DICOM rate vs. the black market rate and the rising prices in the stores and the math becomes overwhelming in very short order.)
But no. It is neither of these things.
For me, the straw came on Friday afternoon in the embassy cafeteria. As I stood in line, holding my tray and looking down the line of options, I struggled to stomach another day of a pounded flat chicken breast and a side of rice. For a moment, I thought I had gotten lucky with a pasta option, but as it turned out, the macaroni with a strange sauce also contained strings of vegetable, but not edible vegetable. These were the parts that one would normally peel off before cooking. (As my faithful readers may know, I’m not a huge veggie-fan to begin with and then veggie that is more ruffage than substance? Not a great option.) My only saving grace on Friday was the Jell-O. A cup of red Jell-O was my lunch. (To be fair, purple was also an option. In retrospect, I probably should have just gone double-Jell-O.)
Now, it is hard to be too dramatic about my daily serving of chicken because I am WELL aware how lucky I am to have a chance to each chicken EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Many Venezuelans would jump at the chance and so I have tried hard not to grumble about it with my local colleagues. I get it and try to be outwardly chill about the whole thing.
At the same time though, I hit the chicken wall on Friday.
All I really want is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Maybe a side of applesauce or a pudding cup. And I have almost all of these things in my pantry, thanks to a hefty consumables purchase.
So what’s the problem?
It is not easy to find anything resembling sandwich bread here.
I thought I had hit the bread jackpot when I spotted loaves of it at our embassy’s Wednesday market. I quickly bought a loaf and carried it home, ready to for a week of PJ and J. My dreams of an elementary school cold lunch were going to come true.
Inside the loaf was more hole than bread.
There was a good crust and then where the bread itself should have been was probably 1/3 air. Just a giant hole. (Needless to say, I crafted a ridiculous sandwich anyway, not willing to let even a holey loaf go to waste, but once again rethinking my sandwich-making options.)
So, as I pushed my weird pasta around my plate on Friday, I decided it was time to just bite the bullet and start making my own bread. I have a bread-maker that Thad bought me when we were living in Chengdu and I was having a whole different set of bread issues (if I remember correctly, it was again the desire for peanut butter and jelly, but instead of no bread, I could only find what I lovingly called “shit-in-the-middle” bread- bread with bean paste cooked into it. Not ideal for sandwiches of any kind.) I brought some bread mixes with me in our consumables shipment, but when I was in D.C., I was struggling to find any “normal” mixes. They were all Italian herb and cheese or 490834-grain bread. (Okay, maybe 9 grain, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of oats in those hearty breads!) Both of which I like, but neither well-suited to crunchy peanut butter and strawberry jam. I’ve sporadically looked online for some normal wheat or white options, but have either come up empty handed or found them at a price I was not willing to pay. (Side note: I’m super annoyed with Amazon’s change where most food items are now party of Prime Pantry. I already pay too much for Amazon Prime and now they want an extra fee for food items? Nope.)
But as I said, the final straw settled on the camel’s back on Friday, meaning cost was no longer an impediment. With just a hospital serving of red Jell-O in my belly, before I embarked on my afternoon to-do list, I went online and paid (too much?) for white bread mixes. (Before those of you who have some semblance of domestic skills asks, yes, I suppose I could order the flour and whatnot to make bread from scratch, but let’s be honest- the box mix is pushing the limits of my kitchen-skills.)
Starting Monday, I’m going to be a “cold lunch” kinda’ girl. Until my bread mixes arrive, I plan to jimmy together options from what we have: pretzels, pudding, apple sauce, etc. My lunch is going to look like some harried mother let her 5-year old loose in the pantry, but I don’t even care. Sides for lunch it is!
I just can’t face the pounded chicken breast one more day.